My Little Shop in Winchester

Jane McIntyre Shop

My little shop, on Winchester’s Southgate Street, is a hidden gem filled to bursting with all things that I love, I never buy anything for the sake of trend or fashion therefore I can be totally genuine when selling. As an interior designer it was important to put my stamp on the building, so I created a backdrop that I also love. The walls are painted in my favourite chalky emulsion by Dutch company Pure & Original, beautiful highly pigmented shades in dirty tones as if they had stepped straight off a painting by the Dutch Masters, full of atmosphere and depth. The building is late Georgian, with original floors worn by time, so it suits its dressing very well.

When asked what encouraged me to start a shop five years ago, in a new town, in the middle of a recession and at an age nearer claiming my bus pass than heading off around Europe to source new stock, I simply reply “Passion”. A passion for all things to do with interiors and a growing frustration with sourcing new and exciting products among the excess of greige that has dominated our design process for so long. (I actually love grey, it is a wonderful backdrop in all its many shades, perfect as a foil for exuberant colour or gentle when mixed with pastel tones, but when mixed with beige it becomes insipid and soulless – to rock my taste buds there has to be some colour too.)

I’ve always been one for a challenge, but there have been days when I’ve questioned my sanity on embarking on such a project in this digital age when I could willingly throw my computer against a wall when battling through the process of loading my website or learning new social media skills. But now I’ve almost conquered that – and believe me it has been a huge learning curve – I feel a great sense of achievement, this proves that with determination you can get there! Then there’s the physical energy required for packing and unpacking of orders, moving stock around, visiting potential clients out of hours and late night stock checks and even somedays just having the energy to get out of bed and start all over again. But you know what, I love it, every second of it and when a customer comes into my little shop and tells me that they love it too, then it all makes sense and makes me very happy.

Jane Mcintyre interior design

I was listening to a programme on the Radio about living your life by a slogan  and I realised that mine is “I can do today”, a little voice that started in my head the day I signed my divorce papers in 1998 and it has been my daily mantra ever since. It can be said silently into the bathroom mirror as I clean my teeth, it can be stamped out on my morning dog walk – this can end up being quite chaotic and involves frisbee throwing, giant whoops and very giddy dogs – or can be gently whispered while doing my early stretches when all I really want to do is fall asleep again on the mat. It’s a powerful tool that has helped me through many sticky situations and there are so many ways and rhythms to adopt in using those four words that it never becomes boring.

Anyway, I digress, I was telling you about me, shops and design. I was brought up in shops, my uncle had a sweet shop underneath the flat I was born in, in which I was allowed to weigh the sweets and put into paper bags, (my reward for doing well being lots of sweets, say no more), then my parents had a very beautiful clothing shop in the Lake District and in later years I co-owned a fashion boutique in Lymington before starting my current shop. So you could say that retail is in my blood, as is fabric. From an early age I played with velvets and silks, making new paws and jackets for my teddy bears from scraps in my Grandma’s sewing box, making all my own rather eccentric clothes as a teenager then studying for a fashion degree, more because I wanted to hone my pattern cutting skills and start my own label rather than having any plans to work for someone else. I’m not very good material for working for others, I never managed more than six months in any job before I branched out on my own, their rules never made sense to me and my energy couldn’t be contained into nine to five, five days a week. Interiors just followed on, bits of fabrics foraged on the markets in student days made cushions and bedding out of necessity, later leftovers from wedding dresses I was making would become frilly pillowcases or over exaggerated net curtains. After that it seemed all to obvious to start messing about with paint colours and driving the saint who worked in the local paint shop absolutely bananas with my desire to find murky shades when all around were the pastels, chintz and Preppy style of the early 80’s.

I can say with quiet confidence that I live and breathe design. I even dream it, in glorious technicolour, then I wake up despairing as the dream disappears into the ether, sometimes, if I’m lucky, popping back in snippets throughout the day until I can weave them back together into a coherent scheme, sometimes they stay too tantalisingly just out of reach, only to appear in another dream further down the days. Possibly my interest in houses comes from early readings of classic novels, I was so fascinated by the dark and gloomy interiors of Wuthering Heights and the hidden doorways in Mr Rochester’s Thornfield Hall, houses such as Manderlay thrown open to guests in costume balls, fantasy worlds inhabited by Hobbits and little girls called Alice, Scarlett tearing down the curtains to make a dress, Rhett closing the big wooden door and not giving a damn. I am an avid reader of all the glossy mags and popular blogs and have a large library of interior and design history books which I pour over to get the creative juices running. A colour of a wall or the placement of a piece of furniture can start the process, as can the colours within a painting or a walk in the countryside. The need to decorate is ingrained in me, I have driven the men in my life mad with it and my children, now very grown up, remind me still how often I made them move, though I notice how they always threw themselves into the redecoration of their rooms with alarming alacrity!

For all projects I take on I try very hard to get inside the head of the property owner, so even if I don’t like what they are thinking I am able to follow their lead and translate their ideas into a workable design that they are happy with. I think the worst thing a designer can do is to push their own ideas too hard, it is very important to listen. Of course, in an ideal world, I’d like to design flamboyant, sumptuous interiors with dark walls and fabulous pops of colour, grounded with luscious jewel tones in velvets and silks, but that takes a lot of courage and sadly not enough people are willing to take that leap! So I can do pale just as well, as long as there is an abundance of textures like linen and wood to play with and layer with tone upon tone of soft shades.

Jane McIntyre interior design

This was first published for Winchester Bloggers who have very kindly asked me to be their resident interior design blogger, very exciting!